Turkey | 2018
Kaya Genç is a contributor to The New York Review of Books and the author of Under the Shadow (I.B. Tauris), a ‘fascinating and informative compilation that represents both investigative and literary journalism at their finest’ according to Publishers Weekly. The Economist called Under the Shadow a ‘refreshingly balanced’ book whose author ‘has announced himself as a voice to be listened to’. The Atlantic picked Kaya’s writings for the magazine’s ‘best works of journalism in 2014’ list. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, The Paris Review, The Times Literary Supplement and The London Review of Books. Kaya is a critic for Artforum, and he gave lectures at venues including the Royal Anthropological Institute and appeared live on flagship programmes including Midday on WNYC and BBC’s Start the Week.
This year I came to Santa Maddalena in high spirits: ready for work, thirsty for isolation and with a spiral-bound notebook. I arrived on October 1, a breezy day. So much has changed from when I left it the previous summer. Santa Maddalena was dark, Gothic, windy.
The Turkish Room became my home for a month. I spent the first morning reading, and I enjoyed the proximity to the library. The Turkish Room is the dream of every recluse.
I had the privilege of working at Grisha’s studio, which was empty, silent and filled with light when I entered it on my first afternoon. I realized it was the heart of Santa Maddalena. A coffer filled with half-century old issues of The New York Review of Books amused me. On the couch, Giulietta and Paride snored heavily. A robin arrived one afternoon and soon flew away. I wrote thirty-thousand words in three weeks.
In the dining room, writers flocked around the fireplace. Conversation warmed anxious minds. The evening news was troubling: a journalist dismembered in an Istanbul consulate, knife crime in London, a Holocaust survivor and ten others massacred in a Pittsburgh synagogue. In the background, pieces of wood fell with a thud in the fireplace. The world was too much with us.
But life soon settled into a gentle rhythm. From eight in the morning until lunch at one thirty, much writing was done with minimal conversation.
I missed the Tower, its rooms and colors, but I resisted the urge to visit. Instead I lived between Grisha’s paragraphs, relishing the descriptions of the Tower in Anecdotage.
In 2017, Santa Maddalena helped me distinguish the vital from the trivial, and come into my own. In 2018, it served a functional purpose. There were no fireflies, no swimming in the pool and no festival trips to Florence. There was only writing, the sole consolation.